By David Roberts
Transportation is one of the largest generators of global greenhouse gas emissions. As an example, the most recent greenhouse gas inventory for Vermont calculated 45% of the state’s 2012 greenhouse gases came from transportation. The shifts in individuals’ habits required to transform this sector are often difficult, particularly for residents of rural areas with longer travel distances and low availability of public transportation. The good news is more people are meeting the challenge to reconsider car habits and benefit from more healthful transportation options like walking and bicycling, or shifting to other more efficient modes like carpooling, vanpooling, transit, telecommuting, or using car-sharing and new ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to meet occasional transportation needs. Living in “location-efficient” places like downtowns and villages with easier use of, greater access to, many of these options makes it much easier to reduce one’s greenhouse-gas “footprint” as well as costs of getting around.
In the bigger picture, new technologies are also improving transportation services, such as Smartphone apps providing real- time information on transit bus locations. The advent of autonomous vehicle systems could lead to major shifts in how we get around sooner than we think.
In the meantime, there are actions you can take to drastically increase your transportation efficiency even if you are stuck driving a vehicle on your own. Electric cars are much more efficient and less polluting than most gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, even taking into consideration the source of the electricity. Grid electricity from local utilities is getting cleaner all the time, and using your own renewably generated electricity is even better.
There are now about 20 electric car models widely available in the Northeast, with two basic varieties: all electric vehicles (AEVs) powered solely by a battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) powered by a combination of battery and gasoline. These electric vehicles are fun to drive and can charge at home using standard 120 volt outlets. Faster charging is available by upgrading to a 240V charger (running on higher-voltage electricity, like an electric clothes dryer or range). In addition, many workplaces are installing charging stations for employee and visitor use and there is a growing network of public charging stations making it easier to travel longer distances in AEVs, particularly through DC fast charging locations which can charge vehicles in 30 minutes or less.
Leasing is a very popular option for electric car ownership as lessees can take advantage of the latest technology improvements after a two or three-year lease period, bringing protection from depreciation and any maintenance issues related to long term life of vehicle components (although most electric cars have proven highly reliable). An added benefit is that vehicles coming off leases generally enter the used market at affordable prices.
The spring season means automakers are taking the wraps off a new generation of electric cars due to arrive in the next year. Below is a sampling of new and updated models.
Chevrolet Bolt – an all-electric vehicle with 200-plus-mile range and flexible hatchback body type. Starting price will be around $30,000 after incentives. Due at dealerships in late 2016.
Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid – This is an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid SUV due later this year. Prior versions have been sold in Japan and Europe for several years, so this should be a proven second generation product.
Updated Toyota Prius Plug-in – Toyota has taken the wraps off the Prius Prime, a new version of their Prius Plug-in which remains popular despite low availability due to production changes that have occurred over the past year. The new model doubles the electric range to about 20 miles, with over 600 miles of estimated range on a charged battery and full tank of gas. Hits dealers in late 2016.
Tesla Model 3 – As of March 31, Tesla will have begun accepting reservations for their latest techno-marvel model, which is expected to be about half the cost of their Model S sedan or Model X SUV. Deliveries are anticipated to start in 2017.
These upcoming models look great, but there is no reason to wait for them if you are shopping for a new or used car today. The Drive Electric Vermont website has detailed information on the various options currently available at dealers – use the website contact form to submit your questions on making the switch to an electric car and we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction.
GoVermont – www.ConnectingCommuters.org
Drive Electric Vermont – www.DriveElectricVT.com
David Roberts is the Drive Electric Vermont coordinator. He has driven an all-electric Nissan LEAF for the past three years and says if you have to drive, drive electric.
E-Bikes – There are many super-efficient electric bicycles
available, including cargo e-bikes, which are great for
meeting a variety of transportation needs. Visit the
VBike coalition or the Electric Bike Report for more info:
www.vbikesolutions.org and www.electricbikereport.com.